The War with Poland

About Bonar Law’s Speech

Transcribed and HTML markup for the Trotsky Internet Archive by David Walters

* * *

In his speech of May 20, in the House of Commons, Bonar Law, explaining the help that imperialist Britain is giving to Poland, referred, inter alia, to a message from Comrade Trotsky to French soldiers, in which it was said that ‘we regard without much alarm the hostile advance of the feeble Polish forces: when we have finished with Denikin, and that day is near, we shall hurl a heavy rifle [sic] on to the Western front.’ [1] Seeing in these words a threat to the independence of Poland, the British Government had undertaken to help her, and is now fulfilling that commitment.

I did not write any letter to French soldiers; but a phrase similar to that quoted by Mr Bonar Law was included in my letter to Comrade Loriot, a leader of the French Communists. This letter was written on September 1 of last year, when Denikin was as near to Moscow as he ever got. The threat from Yudenich was no reason for the unimpeded advance of Polish White-Guard troops into regions which could in no case be regarded as part of Poland. The French comrades, like honourable workers throughout the world, were at that time following with alarm the development of military operations in our West and South-West. In my letter I explained that the operations of the Polish forces could not possess decisive significance, that our main enemy was Denikin, and that after defeating him we should be able to transfer sufficient reserves to the Western front to safeguard the Soviet Republic from attack by White-Guard Poland. It is trebly absurd to see in these words a proclamation of a future offensive by us against Poland. In the first place, intentions of that sort are not announced in the Press, and my letter was published in good time in No.5 of Kommunistichesky Internatsional, on page 511. Secondly, such a statement could not, in any case, have been addressed to French Communists. And, thirdly, it would have run counter to the entire policy of the Soviet power.

Mr Bonar Law would probably have appreciated this if he had taken the trouble to think, but he had no reason to make such an effort. Britain, like every other country, is now divided into two sections. There is the honourable majority of the people, who want peace with Russia and understand fully the dishonourable and base character of Poland’s attack on her, and of the support given to this attack by the Entente. And there is the predatory minority, who approve of and support any harm done to the Russian people, whatever motives may have dictated this. Since the policy of intervention is based on this minority, Mr Bonar Law has no grounds for being too fastidious in his choice of arguments.

May 1920


1. According to the Times of May 21, 1920, Bonar Law said: ‘In October last year there was a belief and fear that the Bolshevists, having been freed from the pressure of General Denikin, would throw their whole force on the bordering states. They had given reasons for that belief, because in a message sent by Trotsky to the French soldiers he had said: “We can watch this temporary advance of the feeble Polish troops without being too alarmed. When we have finished with Denikin, and the day is near, we will throw ourselves on that front with overwhelming reserves.” ‘ A translation of Trotsky’s letter to Loriot and other French Communists appears in The First Five Years of the Communist International Vol.1 (London, New Park Publications, 1973, pp.88-91.) In this, the final phrase is given as: ‘we shall pour our heavy reserves on to the Western front’. A closer rendering would be: ‘we shall fall upon the Western front with heavy reserves’. – B.P.

1 1

Last updated on: 26.12.2006